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​Skills shortage in the construction sector could cause growth to slow

Skills shortage concerns in the construction industry now stand at their highest level since 2008 according to RICS UK Construction Market Survey.

  • Skills-shortage

Submitted by Claire Longney

Skills shortage concerns in the construction industry now stand at their highest level since 2008 according to the latest RICS UK Construction Market Survey (Q2, 2014).

Despite this, employment prospects for the sector remain firm as the industry gets to grips with meeting rapidly rising demands from a historically low base. Britain's builders enjoyed the strongest growth for seven months in August, but the surge in activity put further strain on already tight supplies of materials and skilled workers.

“The UK construction market is mirroring the natural consequence of a rise in demand after five subdued years. The upsurge in housing demand is creating pressure across an industry that failed to invest in attracting new talent or in the training of existing employees at the height of the economic downturn. This in turn is creating similar effects among materials supply.” states Alan Muse, RICS Director of Built Environment.

The industry’s urgent need for new talent was highlighted by figures, published in August 2013 by the Office of National Statistics, which found that 19% (or 406,000) of UK construction workers aged over 55 are set to retire in the next 5 to10 years.

In addition, 24% (or 518,000) of UK construction workers aged 45-54 are set to retire in the next 10 to 20 years.

A shortage of manual and managerial workers, as well as qualified workers such as quantity surveyors, coupled with difficulties in the sourcing of some key building materials is likely to result in upward pressure on costs and prices, while also presenting a challenge to further strong growth in the sector.

Chris Williamson, chief economist at survey compilers Markit, said: "The concern is that shortages of both raw materials and suitable subcontractors could start causing growth to slow, and could push up inflationary pressures within the sector."

James Wates, chairman of CITB, said: “More needs to be done to address construction’s skills ‘time bomb’, to safeguard jobs and ensure that growth is possible.”

“With major projects such as the new nuclear build programme coming online in the next five years, now is the time to start sparking the imagination of young people and harnessing their talent for the future of the industry – any delay now could be putting the industry’s growth on hold... we need to show that construction is a high-tech, world-class industry with outstanding career prospects.”

In response to the report's findings, CITB teamed up with construction machinery firm JCB to launch a skills roadshow. The Construction4Growth Skills Drive is visiting schools and skills academies across England and Wales to encourage young people to consider a career in the sector.


Published: 12 Nov 2014

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